Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch goes back to the very beginning of its long relationship with BAM in its latest Next Wave Festival presentation, a double bill consisting of 1978’s Café Müller and 1975’s The Rite of Spring. The extraordinary works were first shown at BAM in the company’s Brooklyn debut in 1984 (with Bluebeard and 1980) and caused an immediate sensation. The evening opens with Café Müller, an autobiographical piece inspired by Bausch’s memories of the restaurant her parents owned in Germany. Rolf Bozik’s set is cluttered with wooden chairs and small tables, with a pair of large doors on either side and a rear exit leading outside. When Helena Pikon, in a long, off-white slip, her eyes closed, enters the space, it immediately brings to mind Bausch herself, who danced the role for nearly thirty years until shortly before her death in 2009 at the age of sixty-eight; from a distance, Pikon’s build and looks resemble Bausch’s, as if the legendary choreographer’s ghost is haunting the Howard Gilman Opera House. (Pikon alternates in the role with the much younger Breanna O’Mara, the first woman to dance the part who has never met Bausch.) Pikon moves ever-so-slowly, elegantly, as she leans against an unstable wall and lies on the floor. Another woman with eyes closed (Azusa Seyama) then rushes in as a man in a suit and wearing shoes furiously attempts to clear her path, tossing chairs and tables aside so she doesn’t bump into anything. Soon another barefoot man in a suit leads her to another man (Scott Jennings) with whom she forms a volatile relationship. Meanwhile, Nazareth Panadero, in heels and a red wig, meanders through the space, unable to find love. (Various roles are alternated nightly by Scott Jennings / Jonathan Frederickson, Panadero / Blanca Noguerol Ramírez, Michael Strecker / Michael Carter, and Seyama / Ophelia Young, along with Pau Aran Gimeno.) Set to emotive songs by Henry Purcell from The Fairy Queen and Dido and Aeneas, Café Müller is a beautiful lament, featuring repetition that often goes from lovely to frustrating to intoxicating. The magic continues through the intermission, as the audience can watch the stage crew transform the setting from the café to a rectangular mound of dirt for The Rite of Spring, earning its own well-deserved round of applause when they are finished.
Set to Igor Stravinsky’s classic score, Bausch’s The Rite of Spring is a force all its own, one of the most thrilling, heart-wrenching dances you’re ever likely to see. Sixteen bare-chested men in black pants and sixteen women in cream-colored dresses battle it out in groups that move in remarkable unison, at times intermingling, as a red dress, representing first sex, then death, is passed around, left in the middle of the floor by itself, and ultimately worn by Tsai-Chin Yu, who is pursued by Julian Stierle. The music soars as the company gets sweaty, the dirt sticking to their body and costumes, revealing the raw physicality of interaction. (The set and costumes are again by Borzik, Bausch’s partner from 1970 until his death ten years later at the age of thirty-five.) As in Café Müller, there is no talking; many of Bausch’s works feature spoken word, often for humor. But there’s no time for that in The Rite of Spring as the men take over one corner, the women another, then they circle each other, break off into couples, and focus on Yu, who performs a spectacular, convulsive solo of brutally intense emotion. The piece is like Jerome Robbins gone wild; the general setup might be traditional, at least for Bausch, the master of dance theater, but the movement is dazzling, a nonstop fury of arms and legs and bodies thrashing about and joining together. “There are situations, of course, that leave you utterly speechless,” Bausch once said. “All you can do is hint at things. Words, too, can’t do more than just evoke things. That’s where dance comes in.” Café Müller and The Rite of Spring helped establish her reputation, in Brooklyn and around the world, leaving fans and critics virtually speechless at her performances, save for the endless accolades afterward. Several decades later, and eight years after her passing, these works continue to expand her vast legacy.
STAIRWAY TO STARDOM
145 Sixth Ave. at Dominick St.
September 12-23, $18-$45, 8:30
Before there was Star Search, American Idol, The Voice, and America’s Got Talent there was Stairway to Stardom, a no-budget New York City public access television show in which men, women, and children performed with big dreams in their heads, hoping to make it big. Writer, director, choreographer, performer, and “global paradigm architect” Amanda Szeglowski explores the American dream of reaching for fame and fortune in the vastly entertaining and ridiculously clever multimedia production Stairway to Stardom, which opened at HERE on September 12. The sixty-minute show features Szeglowski and her cakeface company, Ali Castro, Jade Daugherty, Ayesha Jordan, and Nola Sporn Smith, in glittery silver-sequined gowns and high heels singing, dancing, and sharing their successes and failures, their hopes and desires with a dry, wry mechanical delivery deliciously at odds with the spectacular longing for stardom that lies beneath.
The narrative follows the arc of a contemporary U.S. life in the arts, from what creative kids want to be when they grow up and what their parents expect of them to discovering their unique talent and then working odd jobs as they strive for artistic (and maybe even financial) success while also experiencing regrets. The performers are joined by Prism House — Brian Wenner and Matt O’Hare — who provide live video and music mixing, featuring excerpts from the original public access program. Szeglowski, who is also HERE’s marketing director, formed the all-female cakeface in 2008; their previous “linguistic performance art” projects include Don’t Call Me McNeill., Alpha Pups, and Harold, I Hate You. The new show continues through September 23; there will be a talkback following the September 20 performance, and September 15 and 19 are ’80s nights, in which the audience is encouraged to dress with their best retro flair. The show begins at 8:30, but HERE will be projecting clips from the original Stairway to Stardom in the lounge beginning at 7:00 every evening. Shortly after opening night, which kicked off HERE’s twenty-fifth anniversary season, Szeglowski found time to answer some questions about her own career trajectory.
twi-ny: As you were preparing for the opening of Stairway to Stardom, your native Florida — you went to high school in Tampa and college at USF — was being battered by Hurricane Irma. What was that experience like, balancing the two? Are your friends and family safe?
amanda szeglowski: Yes, thank you for asking. My family lives in West Tampa, so we were all watching the storm very closely. It was an incredibly stressful time to be in tech rehearsals all day and night approaching the culmination of a show I’ve been building for three years while this monster of a storm was creeping towards my family. I was checking in on them every chance I got and FaceTiming to see all the prep they were doing to their houses, going over the evacuation plans. . . . Being a part of that process helped me feel like I was with them. But growing up in Florida and having been through many hurricanes actually gave me some comfort as well. We know how to prepare and we take it seriously. That’s not to say that wine isn’t the first thing in the hurricane supply shopping cart — it is. But I felt better knowing this wasn’t my family’s first rodeo; they knew exactly what to do.
twi-ny: Were you ever a fan of such programs as Star Search, American Idol, The Voice, or America’s Got Talent?
as: I loved watching Star Search as a kid. As I got older and the shows got more scripted I lost interest. I think Idol changed the game by making the auditions part of the show, and then it became a gimmick of who could be the most outrageous. But I will occasionally watch clips from these shows when my parents call me and insist that they just saw the greatest thing.
twi-ny: What is it about the public access show that spurred your creative juices? You treat it with respect without getting overly kitschy or mean-spirited.
as: The TV show was so raw — so vulnerable. These weren’t people trying to become a character on a reality show; these were people really trying to make it. I respect that. There wasn’t any competitive aspect to the TV show; they were just performing and hoping to be seen. Sure, when you see clips from the TV show there are moments that you want to laugh, but I spent hours and hours interviewing people about their lives for my script, and a lot of it was pretty damn sad. At least these people were out there trying. I wanted to honor that drive and explore what happens to all of us along the way, because I think that fire is there for almost everyone in the beginning.
twi-ny: What kind of talent does someone have to display to become a member of cakeface? When someone is auditioning for you, are you more like Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul, Jennifer Lopez, Usher, or Miley Cyrus?
as: HAHAHA. I think I’m a Simon and Paula hybrid. I’m Simon because I have a crystal-clear vision of what I want, and if you don’t fit, I am not going to beat around the bush. I never want to waste anyone’s time. But Paula has a way of finding a spark in people and being respectful of their contributions, and I try to always do that. I’ve received many post-audition emails over the years from people that I didn’t hire saying the experience was really special. I’m proud of that.
twi-ny: Is anyone associated with the public access show still around? Did you have to go through any kind of permissions process to use some of the original footage?
as: The show was public access. But I did get the tapes directly from someone who was given them by the host of the show, Frank Masi, before he died. [Ed. note: Masi passed away in 2013 at the age of eighty-seven; you can watch a YouTube tribute to him and the show here.]
twi-ny: How amazing was it to perform in such great costumes, as well as high heels?
as: The costumes, which are by Oana Botez, are absolutely fantastic. It’s such a blast being able to sparkle head to toe on a downtown stage — very atypical for the scene. The heels are challenging, but anything else with those costumes would be absurd, right? And the performers are all pros, so they make it work. I wanted an over-the-top glamorous look that I could juxtapose with the stark reality of our words. Oana definitely achieved that.
twi-ny: What did you want to be when you were growing up?
as: The opening text, which I call a monologue (even though it’s delivered by five voices), is basically a run-on sentence ticking off all of my childhood dreams. It includes a mermaid, grocery store checkout clerk, princess, trapeze artist, restaurateur, and movie star. Of course, I always wanted to be a dancer, but that’s obvious, and our unfulfilled dreams are so much more interesting.
twi-ny: What’s the worst job you’ve ever had?
as: I’ve had a slew of them. The story in the show about working in the housewares department at Burdines was my life at age fifteen. I had no idea how to sell kitchen appliances and would literally walk away from customers and kick back in the stock room. That was pretty awful. There’s another story about a boss with revolting coffee breath; that was my first job in NYC. But another horrific experience was telemarketing. In high school I worked at a call center selling satellite broadcasting to elderly people in rural areas. I had to convince them they needed HBO. It was super sleazy, plus I got sexually harassed by my boss. I’d say fifteen was not a banner year for my career trajectory.
twi-ny: What would you like audiences to take away from the show?
as: I’d like them to be reminded of our often-naive notions of success and talent, reflect on the choices they’ve made, and leave with a glimmer of hope.
New York City Center
131 West 55th St. between Sixth & Seventh Aves.
Tickets go on sale Sunday, September 10, 11:00 am (get place in line starting at 10:00 am)
Festival runs October 2-14, $15
One of the hottest tickets of the season is always the annual Fall for Dance Festival at City Center, ten days of performances by twenty companies from around the world, each show a mere fifteen bucks. This year’s lineup is stellar once again, with such troupes as Trisha Brown Dance Company, American Ballet Theatre, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Abraham.In.Motion, the San Francisco Ballet, Stephen Petronio Company, and the Pennsylvania Ballet performing works by such choreographers as Christopher Wheeldon, Kyle Abraham, Alexei Ratmansky, Ronald K. Brown, Crystal Pite, Mark Morris, and Michelle Dorrance. Most evenings will be preceded by free dance lessons by members of one of that night’s performing companies, open to all ticket holders (Tango Fire, October 4; Cie Art Move Concept, October 5; Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater with Ronald K. Brown, October 6; Ballet BC, October 11; Company Wang Ramirez, October 12; Danza Contemporanea de Cuba, October 13). More advanced dancers can sign up for master classes ($15) with Dorrance Dance (tap) on October 3 at 6:00 and with Wendy Whelan (ballet) on October 14 at noon. Tickets go on sale Sunday, September 10, at 11:00 am, but you need to get your place in line at 10:00, so don’t waste any time if you want to see any of the below programs, because these events sell out ridiculously fast.
Monday, October 2, and Tuesday, October 3, 8:00
Miami City Ballet
Vincent Mantsoe, GULA, choreographed by Vincent Sekwati KoKo Mantsoe
Trisha Brown Dance Company, You can see us, choreographed by Trisha Brown
Dorrance Dance, Myelination, world premiere Fall for Dance commission, choreographed by Michelle Dorrance
Wednesday, October 4, and Thursday, October 5, 8:00
Pennsylvania Ballet, Rush©, choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon
Cie Art Move Concept, Nibiru, choreographed by Soria Rem and Mehdi Ouachek
Stephen Petronio Company, Bloodlines: Yvonne Rainer and Steve Paxton
German Cornejo’s Tango Fire, Tango Fire, choreographed by German Cornejo
Friday, October 6, and Saturday, October 7, 8:00
Sanjukta Sinha, IceCraft Dance Company, Kin-Incede, choreographed by Padma Bhusan Kumudini Lakhia
American Ballet Theatre, Souvenir d’un lieu cher, choreographed by Alexei Ratmansky
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Open Door, choreographed by Ronald K. Brown
Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, Paquita, after Marius Petipa
Wednesday, October 11, and Thursday, October 12, 8:00
Gauthier Dance//Dance Company Theaterhaus Stuttgart, Streams, choreographed by Andonis Foniadakis
Abraham.In.Motion, Drive, world premiere Fall for Dance commission, choreographed by Kyle Abraham
Sara Mearns and Honji Wang, No. 1, world premiere co-commission, choreographed by Honji Wang and Sébastien Ramirez
Ballet BC, Bill, choreographed by Sharon Eyal and Gai Behar
Friday, October 13, and Saturday, October 14, 8:00
Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, Solo Echo, choreographed by Crystal Pite
San Francisco Ballet, Concerto Grosso, choreographed by Helgi Tomasson
David Hallberg, Twelve of ’em, world premiere Fall for Dance commission, choreographed by Mark Morris
Danza Contemporanea de Cuba, Matria Etnocentra, choreographed by George Céspedes
Museum of Modern Art
11 West 53rd St. between Fifth & Sixth Aves.
Through September 17
“Robert Rauschenberg: Among Friends” is almost too much of a good thing, a massive MoMA retrospective of the interdisciplinary artist who died in 2008 at the age of eighty-two. The exhausting exhibition consists of more than 250 works, highlighting his collaborations while celebrating the vast nature of his practice. “Oh, I love collaborating, because art can be a really lonely business, if you’re really just working from your ego,” he says in an old interview on the audio guide. The show follows the Texas native from his Black Mountain College years through his time in Italy and North Africa, from his early combines and classical-influenced pieces to performances, silkscreens, objects, “Experiments in Art and Technology” (E.A.T.), and more. Many of his greatest hits are here, including “Bed,” “Monogram,” “Canyon,” “Gift for Apollo,” and his illustrations for Dante’s Inferno, alongside collaborations with Jasper Johns, John Cage, Jean Tinguely, Willem de Kooning, Susan Weil, Brice Marden, Sturtevant, Alex Hay, and more. Among the most unusual works is the bubbling “Mud Muse” created with Carl Adams, George Carr, Lewis Ellmore, Frank Lahaye, and Jim Wilkinson. And most entertaining is Rauschenberg’s involvement in the dance world, making sets for and even performing in pieces by Paul Taylor, Merce Cunningham, Trisha Brown and Laurie Anderson, Harry Shunk and Janos Kender, and others, some filmed by Charles Atlas. The exhibition is supplemented with works by such Rauschenberg contemporaries as Aaron Siskind, Cy Twombly, Lucinda Childs, Andy Warhol, Marcel Duchamp, Niki de Saint Phalle, and Robert Whitman. Meanwhile, the audio guide includes contributions from Yvonne Rainer, Calvin Tompkins, Weil, Marden, Brown, Virginia Dwan, Atlas, Julie Martin, and Rauschenberg’s son, Christopher. So how does one make sense of it all? MoMA is hosting a series of talks and performances to help sort everything out. The exhibition continues through September 17; the below “gallery experiences” are free with museum admission, with no advance RSVP required. (Only the September 12 “Dante Among Friends” performance requires paid ticketing.)
Wednesday, September 6, 11:30 & 3:30
“Dance among Friends: Robert Rauschenberg’s Collaborations with Trisha Brown, Merce Cunningham, and Paul Taylor,” featuring Changeling, Three Epitaphs, Tracer, You Can See Us, and excerpts from other works, Sculpture Garden
“Robert Rauschenberg’s Process,” with Lauren Kaplan
Wednesday, September 6, 11:30
Thursday, September 7, 1:30
Wednesday, September 13, 1:30
Thursday, September 14, 11:30 & 1:30
“No One Is an Island,” with Kerry Downey
Thursday, September 7, 1:30
“Rauschenberg Among Friends,” with Elisabeth Bardt-Pellerin
Saturday, September 9, 11:30
Sunday, September 17, 1:30
“100 Ways to Make a Picture,” with Petra Pankow
Sunday, September 10, 11:30
Monday, September 11, 11:30
“A Bit of This and That: Robert Rauschenberg’s Combines,” with Jane Royal
Tuesday, September 12
“Collaborators, Friends, Lovers,” with Tamara Kostianovsky, 11:30
“Dante among Friends,” with Robin Coste Lewis and Kevin Young responding in music and poetry to Rauschenberg’s Thirty-Four Illustrations for Dante’s Inferno, curated and hosted by Terrance McKnight, $5-$15, 7:00
On the High Line at 30th Street between 11th & 12th Aves.
September 5-7, free, 4:00 – 7:00
Donald Trump might be seeking to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, but a very different kind of wall is going up on the High Line this week. On September 5-7 from 4:00 to 7:00, Romanian dancer, choreographer, and performance artist Alexandra Pirici will construct “Threshold” at the gate that separates the eastern and western rail yards at Thirtieth St. The architectural boundary is not made of wire, concrete, or wood but performers who will move about and transform the public space. Among the participants lining the flexible human wall — which visitors can interact with — will be Marissa Brown, Catherine Cabeen, Miguel Angel Guzmán, Samuel Hanson, Casey Hess, Jordan Isadore, Jhia Louise Jackson, Annie Kloppenberger, Elizabeth Mulkey, Candace Tabbs, and Jessica Weinstein. In such pieces as “Leaking Territories,” “Aggregate,” “Monument to Work,” and “If You Don’t Want Us, We Want You,” Pirici, who cites Tino Sehgal, Jérôme Bel, and La Ribot as influences, mixes in the political in both clear and subtle ways. Admission is free, and no advance RSVP is required.
BAM Harvey Theater, 651 Fulton St.
BAM Howard Gilman Opera House, 30 Lafayette Ave.
BAM Fisher, 321 Ashland Pl.
September 14 - December 16
As usual, we are considering moving in to the Brooklyn Academy of Music for three months after the announcement of the lineup for the thirty-fifth BAM Next Wave Festival, running September 14 through December 16 at the Harvey, the Howard Gilman Opera House, and the Fisher. “This year’s Next Wave showcases artists from Switzerland to Senegal in creative dialogue with historic events, personal histories, and the present moment,” longtime BAM executive producer Joe Melillo said in a statement. The roster includes old favorites and up-and-comers from around the world, with several surprises. Dance enthusiasts will be particularly impressed with the schedule, which begins September 14-24 with a superb double bill of Tanztheater Wuppertal/Pina Bausch’s Café Müller and The Rite of Spring, which were part of the first Bausch program at BAM back in June 1984. For The Principles of Uncertainty (September 27-30), Maira Kalman teams up with John Heginbotham, Dance Heginbotham, and the Knights to bring her online graphic diary to life. New York Live Arts artistic director and cofounder Bill T. Jones returns to BAM with the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company and composer Nick Hallett for A Letter to My Nephew (October 3-7), about his nephew, Lance T. Briggs, who battled illness and addiction. Senegalese artist Germaine Acogny takes center stage for the emotional solo piece Mon élue noire (My Black Chosen One): Sacre #2 (October 4-7), choreographed specifically for her by Olivier Dubois of Ballet du Nord, set to music by Stravinsky. Also on the movement bill are Joshua Beamish/MOVETHECOMPANY’s Saudade, Cynthia Oliver’s Virago-Man Dem, ODC/Dance, Brenda Way, and KT Nelson’s boulders and bones, David Dorfman Dance’s Aroundtown, Hofesh Shechter Company’s Grand Finale, Xavier Cha’s Buffer, Big Dance Theater’s 17c, and Tesseract, a multimedia collaboration between Charles Atlas, Rashaun Mitchell, and Silas Riener.
The festival also boasts impressive theater productions, kicking off October 11-14 with Schaubühne Berlin’s tantalizing version of Shakespeare’s Richard III, translated and adapted by Marius von Mayenburg, directed by Thomas Ostermeier, and starring Lars Eidinger. Théâtre de la Ville, Paris is back November 2-4 with Albert Camus’s State of Siege, directed by Emmanuel Demarcy-Mota. Tony-winning Belgian director Ivo van Hove takes on Ayn Rand in Toneelgroep Amsterdam’s four-hour The Fountainhead November 28 to December 2. Rachel Dickstein and Ripe Time bring Naomi Iizuka’s adaptation of Haruki Murakami’s Sleep to the Fisher November 20 to December 2. Fresh off her Broadway stint in Marvin’s Room, Lili Taylor stars in Farmhouse/Whorehouse: An Artist Lecture by Suzanne Bocanegra, directed by Lee Sunday Evans (December 12-16). Geoff Sobelle, who went solo at BAM for The Object Lesson, is joined by an ensemble of designers and dancers for Home (December 6-10). And be on the lookout for Manfred Karge, Alexandra Wood, and Wales Millennium Centre’s Man to Man, Thaddeus Phillips and Steven Dufala’s A Billion Nights on Earth, the Cameri Theatre of Tel-Aviv’s adaptation of Etgar Keret’s Suddenly, directed by Zvi Sahar and PuppetCinema, Manual Cinema’s Mementos Mori, Marc Bamuthi Joseph/The Living Word Project’s /peh-LO-tah/, and James Thierrée and Compagnie du Hanneton’s La grenouille avait raison (The Toad Knew).
Music aficionados have plenty to choose from, with Olivier Py Sings Les Premiere Adieux de Miss Knife, Kronos Quartet, Rinde Eckert, and Vân-Ánh Võ’s My Lai, Bang on a Can All-Stars, Michael Gordon, David Lang, Julia Wolfe, and Michael Counts’s Road Trip, Gabriel Kahane’s Book of Travelers, Rithy Panh, Him Sophy, Trent Walker, Jonathan Berger, and Harriet Scott’s Bangsokol: A Requiem for Cambodia, Wordless Music Orchestra and Chorus’s two-part John Cale: The Velvet Underground & Nico, and the New York premiere of American Repertory Theater’s Crossing, an opera inspired by Walt Whitman’s “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry,” composed, written, and conducted by Matthew Aucoin and directed by Diane Paulus. The season is supplemented with several postperformance talks and master classes.